You can view our Family Genealogy Surname Index (PDF) to search for specific surnames found in the Genealogy department at ACDL.
Family Files Unique Arrangement
(A must read guide to using the Family File)
These files have a unique filing system. Without its knowledge you are liable to leave without a wealth of information from within the over 1,800 files.
These are not actual compiled genealogies, but instead are over 1,800 vertical files of loose items (research notes and letters of inquiry and/or answers to same) on specific family surnames. A majority of the files contain New England/New York/Pennsylvania as well as Ashtabula County names since they were the earliest settlers in this county. That is not to say that the files exclude ethnic groups or people from many other states.
If there are three or more sheets of paper on one surname a separate file is created for that name. Surnames with less than three sheets will be found in a file called: “A–Misc.”; “B–Misc.”; “C–Misc.” and so forth. These miscellaneous files are also included in this index.
In most cases the file names are only by surname. In a few cases, such as certain names common in this county, there may be a surname-only file and a surname-with-specific-first- name file. For the more common area names there may be several surname-only files and/or surname-with-specifics file due to heavy interest in that particular surname. Most notable of the latter are the names Harper and Spencer. Surname files with more than 25 pages can not be searched by volunteers or staff due to the bulk of material. Researchers will have to come on site and search themselves or are free to hire a researcher of their choice.
How to Use Synopsis
To effectively use these files, a researcher needs to look for files by not only the male members of a particular Ashtabula County surname but also look under the married surnames of all his daughters.
The files were begun by Alice Bliss, a county historian and the inquiry secretary for the Ashtabula County Historical Society (in the years before the genealogical society was formed). When the Ashtabula County Genealogical Society (ACGS) was gifted with the files at her death, several other filing systems were tried. It was decided that Alice’s system was the best, thus ACGS continued to file all their similar materials using Alice’s system.
Reason Behind the System
When Alice began this system circa the late 1950s she would start a new file for each person who wrote in inquiring about their family.
Example: A Seymour family descendant in California decided to research their family. They wrote the historical society and Alice started a file called Seymour because it is an Ashtabula County name and the one she would be working on. Thus, easier to remember than the name of the writer.
After Alice had done several generations of the family she found out that the maiden name of the Seymour woman in California was Mann. Rather than start another file titled “Mann” she continued to put everything for this researcher in the same file.
A year or two later, perhaps, someone wrote in about the Mann family. Alice began a Mann file and everything for this researcher was put into the Mann file.
So if you are working on the Mann family you would need to look in the Mann file and the files of every one of the Mann family daughters by their married surnames.
Why Red Slashes?
In recent times library staff has added a bright red slash across one corner of every piece of paper in every file. This is due to the fact that without the slash it is impossible now days to distinguish between an original and a copy. With a red slash researchers will automatically know which copy belongs to the library. If you should accidentally find yourself with an original instead of a copy, please return it! You can drop it off or mail it back, we won’t judge! We’ve done it too.